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With love, from me

By Rhoda Parry

When I was a little girl growing up, everything at Christmas was hand-made – the green frock my mum had happily sewed on her black and gold Singer sewing machine, the wooden cars fashioned by my dad at his workshop bench, the coconut ice, the chocolate fudge and the giant snow-white Christmas cake that emerged from the pantry. Of course, these days in our ‘buy, buy’ world we can pay ‘contactlessly’ for a beautiful dress at a boutique shop, one-click a shed load of toys that will arrive 'next day' and pop to the deli for all things nice and nibbly. But, for me, somehow, it's not the same. It's the effort behind the giving of these gifts that makes me remember how much love was put into those seasonal times of my childhood.

In fact, the notion of hand-made gifting is long associated with the countryside. For rural Victorians, the crafting of festive keepsakes was a way to pass wind-howling winter evenings. The planning, designing and execution of a monogrammed handkerchief, pretty pincushion or a rosebud-scented drawer sachet was a family custom enjoyed as much by the giver as the receiver. And, of course, preserved fruits, jams and jellies gathered and set-to-store in the summer months were an easy token that said, ‘I’m giving a bit of me…to you’.

Fast forward to the year 2016 and I don’t think this act of giving small things has changed that much for those of us who still believe in sentiment and warmhearted-ness. Living, as I do, in the Sussex landscape close to woodland and shoreline I am blessed to have nature’s bounty on hand to fashion glossy holly wreaths, and berry and teasel posies. Often done with the help of my two ‘crafty’ young boys, it is an opportunity to gather at the kitchen table and share some Christmas giggles. On top of this, I have my Christmas ideas notebook filled with gathered inspiration for thoughtful little presents that I hope to give to my nearest and dearest.

Rhoda’s go-to ideas for hand-crafted gifting

Personalised flowerpots.

Give green-fingered friends favourite seeds and plant markers arranged in a decorative clay or terracotta pot. Create your own envelopes and fill them with a sprinkling of seeds, before securing it shut with an old-fashioned wax seal. If you have lovely hand-writing, scribe the name of the seed on the front and nothing else. Tuck the envelopes inside and then fasten the plant market to the outside using with gardener’s twine.

Monogram shortbreads.

One for the foodies in your life. Make your shortbread dough to your favourite recipe be it simple vanilla sugar or orange and clove for Christmas. Using a letter cutter press out and bake. When cool, place the biscuits into glass jars and adorn them as you see fit. Keep it simple and classic for grown-ups or get glitter at the ready if it’s a gift from one child to another.

‘I promise’ gift vouchers.

Come up with some thoughtful ideas of things to do with a loved one, such as days out or small gestures that you know they’ll love, and write them out, by hand, onto some lovely paper. For example, ‘I promise to take you to… see the gardens at Great Dixter on a sunny day in June’. These can be especially lovely from children to parents.

Lavender pockets.

Gathered from the garden and sewn into little bags using hessian or natural linen. You can make these and leave them under the pillow in a guest bedroom so they sleep soundly and can take them home when their stay is over.

For more Christmas craft ideas, visit Rhoda, Neptune, and over 100 country-style makers and crafters at Country Homes & Interiors Christmas from 25-27 November, Stonor Park, Oxfordshire. For tickets, go to ichfevents.co.uk or call 01425 277988.

About the author
Rhoda Parry is the Editor of Country Homes & Interiors, the brand that’s all about living in – and loving – today’s country home.

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